by Scott Moore
Patty Loveless was a fresh face to Nashville in the late '80s. Almost silenced by a career-threatening, leaky blood vessel in her throat, she emerged again in '92 after risky laser surgery. That album, Only What I Feel, was nothing less than incredible.
Her follow-up, When Fallen Angel's Fly, earned her the coveted Country Music Association 1995 Album of the Year award. Her latest offering, The Trouble With The Truth, solidifies her place among her female contemporaries.
Like Mary Chapin Carpenter, she intelligently sings of pain and loss, yet lacks the self-righteous, East Coast education that alienates Carpenter from so much of the country audience.
Loveless can also move a listener with more emotional sincerity than Reba McEntire, without the overblown vocal theatrics.
The album starts with a rousing cover of Richard Thompson's '83 hit "Tear Stained Letter." Singing about being strung along by an ex-lover, Loveless uses the beat to remove any shred of self-pity and, in contrast, highlights the desperation and yearning in the lyrics.
Loveless also proves to be equally comfortable with ballads. In the songs "I Miss Who I Was (With You)" and "A Thousand Times A Day," her delivery is crystal clear. There is a touch of irony, but it is never overdone.
"You Can Feel Bad" (her current chart single) and "She Drew a Broken Heart" are both up-tempo country rockers that rail against men who have treated their women badly. Her straight-forward vocals show both disgust and sarcasm while accentuating the infectious rhythms of the music.
For me, however, the album's bright spots are the two incredibly simple gems-"The Trouble With The Truth" and "To Feel That Way At All." With lines like "The trouble with the truth is it's always the same old thing/so hard to forget/so impossible for me to change," the stark lyrics of the title song are delivered with the simplicity and maturity of a woman who has seen her share of troubles yet has boldly and honestly faced them. It is a powerful moment that could make even the most calloused listener wince out of remorse.
Equally effective, and even more poignant perhaps, is "To Feel That Way At All." Loveless captures both the aching of a new love and the heartbreak of that same love, ending with her trademark sterile simplicity.
"Someday I Will Lead The Parade" ends the album on a mysterious note. At first listen, it sounds like a pretty traditional song that is both sad and hopeful. The main character in the song feels that after having been a loser for so long, one day her time to win will come.
The song sounds surprisingly similar to old funeral songs, like "Farther Along" and "Peace In The Valley." Perhaps the "Parade" she sings of is a funeral procession. Loveless' upbeat and almost warm delivery adds another eerie element to the song.
Maybe the most defining characteristic of Loveless' artistry is that she never gives in to the emotion of the song, choosing instead to convey emotion through contrast. Stylistically, she seems to borrow from traditional divas like Kitty Wells or Loretta Lynn.
She follows the advice of the old school, that if you hit the notes and pronounce the words so everyone can understand you, the music and the lyrics will break their hearts. It is a truth that a crowded field of country music women would be wise to trouble themselves with.
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